Woodland’s version of Hot Potato?

I could not tell you the last time I played Hot Potato. It must have been forgettable. No surprise there.

In recent weeks, I wrote a series of stories about a high stakes Hot Potato match, er, deadlocked Woodland council race.

I liken the race to a Hot Potato game because each candidate displayed a “you take it” demeanor toward the race. Both men exhibited reluctance toward winning because they did not look forward to working on the city’s budget.

Scott Perry won the seat last Wednesday courtesy of a coin flip at Woodland High. However, it was clear to everyone inside the gym he envied his opponent, Robert Ripp.

“After working on the budget the last five weeks, I’m not too sure he’s not really the winner,” Perry told the crowd gathered inside the gym. How’s that for an acceptance speech?

Perry will get his first crack at the city’s $14 million budget as a councilman Dec. 19. Are his budget fears legitimate?

I asked two veteran Woodland council members this question.

“They’re probably correct,” Mayor Pro-Tem Marilee McCall said about Perry and Ripp’s concerns. The reason, she explained, was the council did not receive a preliminary mayor’s budget until November, one month after it would normally receive it. Thus, its members are scrambling to finish by Dec. 31.

As a candidate, Perry did not have the benefit of inspecting budget documents. If this creates a problem next Monday he can always abstain from voting, McCall said.

“There is a steep learning curve when you join any city council,” councilman Benjamin Fredricks offered.

Budget woes in Woodland are nothing new.

“The last four budgets have been very difficult,” he added.

Fredricks blamed the city’s administration, specifically outgoing Mayor Chuck Blum, for the difficulties.

Blum accused the council of postponing his delivery of the preliminary budget to them. He also fired back at McCall and Fredricks.

“Both of these people have come in and cost the taxpayers of this city probably close to the cost of a city administrator,” Blum said, explaining each had supported needless studies.

Blum referenced the Prothman Report, an independent audit that slammed the mayor’s job performance and called for Woodland to hire a city administrator to manage its daily affairs.

In retrospect, given Woodland’s ongoing governmental feuds and budget headaches, maybe Perry and Ripp were correct in desiring to pass the Hot Potato.

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